New bill proposes 5 years’ jail for sexual voyeurism

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday


Faris Al-Rawi –

ATTORNEY GENERAL Faris Al-Rawi will  pilot a bill on Tuesday to make voyeurism into a criminal offence in Trinidad and Tobago, according to the Senate order paper.

Anyone who seeks sexual gratification or causes upset by spying on someone engaged in a “private act” will face imprisonment and a hefty fine under the Sexual Offences (Amendment)(No 3) Bill 2021. A magistrates court can impose two years’ jail and a $250,000 fine, while at the High Court the penalty is five years’ jail and $750,000.

The bill will also impose similar penalties for “revenge porn”-style offences. These are taking and sharing intimate images without consent, including creating fake pornographic images of real individuals, plus the singular offence of sharing intimate images of someone without his/her consent.

All offences are outlined in the bill’s explanatory notes.

The notes say that among other things, “a person commits the offence of voyeurism where he observes another person doing a private act without the consent of the other person, in situations where the other person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy.”

The voyeurism must be done “for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification, or for the purpose of causing humiliation or distress to the other person”

A private act is one done by someone in a place which would reasonably be expected to provide privacy and where “(a) the private parts of the person are fully or partially exposed or covered only with underwear; (b) the person is using the toilet, showering or bathing; or (c) the person is doing a sexual act.”

The bill says the aim of voyeurism is sexual gratification or to cause humiliation or distress, while the act entails an offender knowingly observing, viewing or recording.

A voyeurism offence occurs firstly if someone “observes, whether with or without the use of equipment, that person doing a private act and he knows or ought to reasonably know that the person does not consent to being observed.”

Secondly, voyeurism also occurs where someone with or without equipment views beneath the clothing of a person to observe his/her private parts, whether fully or partially exposed or covered with underwear, or views the person’s underwear, without consent.

Thirdly, a voyeurism offence is done by someone who “takes, captures, records, streams, stores, publishes or transmits” by a device/computer, a visual recording of the private parts of a person without his/her consent in circumstances where the victim reasonably expected he/she was doing a private act.

Exceptions are allowed for law enforcement, medical purposes, security monitoring, preventing/prosecuting crime, legal proceedings, administration of justice and in the public interest.

The bill also imposes similar penalties for acts of voyeurism against children.

The explanatory notes said the bill also outlawed “revenge porn”-type offences, that is “the offence of taking and sharing, or threatening to share, intimate images without consent.”

The notes detail five such offences. Firstly, if an intimate image is taken and shared without consent.

Secondly, if an intimate image is taken and shared for the purpose of humiliating or causing distress to a person. Thirdly if this is done for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification.

Fourthly, where there are threats to share an intimate image. Fifthly, where a person knowingly alters an image of a person to appear to be an intimate image.

Again, exceptions such as law enforcement are allowed.

The bill also outlaws the offence of sharing intimate images without consent, where someone had a reasonable expectation that he/she was doing a private act, his/her private parts would not be visible to the public, or that his/her intimate image would not be shared without his/her express permission. This section also allows the listed exemptions.

The bill says an “intimate image” is a visual recording of a person that depicts “(a) the person engaged in a sexual act; (b) the person in a manner or context that is sexual; or (c) the private parts of the person.” In contrast to voyeurism offences only occurring in private places, the offence of sharing an intimate image may occur “regardless of whether the intimate image of the depicted person was taken in a public or private place.” A visual recording is a “photograph or film, video recording, or live-stream,” while sharing includes both online and offline modes.